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Five steps France must take to tackle racism

Ben McPartland · 15 Nov 2013, 17:47

Published: 15 Nov 2013 17:47 GMT+01:00

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The issue of racism in France reared its ugly head again this week when far-right magazine "Minute" compared the country’s black Justice Minister Christiane Taubira to a monkey.

Coming on the back of other shocking racist slurs towards the politician, Minute’s provocative cover headline read “Crafty as a Monkey, Taubira gets her banana back”.

Although politicians from all parties, left and right, condemned the publication, it led to some blunt questions being asked about how bad racism is in France.

On Friday even the UN waded into the row when the spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights condemned the slurs, saying it was crucial for politicians to speak out.

CRAN (the Representative Council of Black Associations), for many years a leading association in the black community in France, has led the calls for action against racism with its chairman Louis-Georges Tin asking “How many bananas does it take for a real plan against racism to be implemented?”

Tin tells The Local exactly what the French government needs to do to tackle racism.

Louis-Georges Tin: “What was surprising this week was not the magazine cover because that's typical of the far-right, but rather the attitude of the government.  Taubira has been attacked before this and it has done nothing.

"The government talks about the need to react but in reality it does nothing.

“It’s hard to get accurate figures to show how bad racism is in France. Its hard to gauge the number of daily, silent acts like discrimination in the workplace or in the allocation of housing that take place.

"What is really worrying is the lack of a reaction to it from those who oppose it. If it rains, you normally react and put an umbrella up, but the government in France is not putting up the umbrella to stop racism.

“We have proposed this five-point plan to the French government, which they need to adopt:

1.     They need to appoint a minister against racism as part of the government. They have a minister to deal with discrimination against disabled people, so why not a minister whose specific job is to tackle racism?

2.     We need a system to monitor the number of stops made by police on individuals, in order to tackle racial profiling. Hollande promised this in his election manifesto but has not delivered it.

3.     We also need class-action lawsuits. They're being introduced so consumers can take legal action against a company as a group, but they should also exist to allow groups to unite to launch proceedings against acts of discrimination.

4.     We need an annual report on diversity in the workplace to make sure enough people from minorities are being employed by companies, because at the moment there is real inequality between blacks, whites and Arabs when it comes to jobs and salaries.

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5.     France also needs a museum about slavery.  In the US there are hundreds of museums on the subject, but not in France. This would help young people in France see where racist attitudes and comments come from. It would help them understand the problem.

"The problem of racism effects all French people, just as Taubira said this week. This can’t be resolved only through court, just by putting Minute on trial.  We need to go right to the bottom.

"There are other countries where racism is worse than France, such as Greece and Italy, but the problem here is that we talk about being the founder of human rights, and so on.

"So maybe the problem here is one of arrogance.

"Racism is an illness, and needs to be healed."

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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